Yesterday Prime Minister Theresa May made a speech announcing plans for mental health reform, including a new suicide prevention strategy with a focus on high-risk people like young and middle-aged men.
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) January 9, 2017
Sounds promising, eh? But will it change things? Some thoughts on the latest announcements in relation to tackling male suicide:
1. Male suicide is finally on the government’s agenda as a major issue.
Theresa May’s speech at the Charity Commission yesterday marked the first time a British Prime Minister has made a public commitment to recognising the issue of male suicide. That’s a win. Our message is getting through and we can confidently say that male suicide is placed firmly on the government agenda, thanks to campaigners like you. We’ve achieved so much in the last ten years, and awareness of the issue is at a record high, meaning Government can longer ignore it. So thank you!
Also, some drunken badgering by comedian and CALM ambassador Jack Rooke seems to have helped…
Sat night 1am me & mate stood at Downing St drunk-yelling
“May if u can hear SORT MENTAL HEALTH OUT!”
Monday morn: 👀 https://t.co/4b3Wull7sT
— Jack Rooke💅🏼 (@jackrooke) January 9, 2017
Good to see ending stigma and getting the country talking about #mentalillness is becoming a national priority
— Heads Together (@heads_together) January 9, 2017
2. Gender is acknowledged, but the question still remains: why men?
Welcome the prime minister’s statement on mental health and suicide but still no commitment to understand why men are 3:1 more likely…?
— HΩΩPMUSIC (@Scroggles) January 9, 2017
The report mentions the need to focus those at highest-risk of suicide, with young and middle-aged men top of the list. A gendered approach to suicide prevention is long overdue (we’ve only been banging on about it for a decade), and very welcome. But we still need to answer the question: why are 75% suicides men? We need research. And better data. Research that builds on the findings of CALM’s masculinity audit, taking an honest look at the pressures facing modern men in the UK. CALM’s Chairman James Scroggs had this to say: “The government’s new strategy talks about encouraging men to seek help, we’d like to see more concrete plans to properly tackle suicide by understanding the reasons why men are so much more at risk.
CALM’s ten years’ experience of providing male-targeted campaigns and services that change and save lives will go some way to guiding the government towards strategies that really work for men. But a commitment to research into ‘why men?’ is the next step to making a real difference.”
3. We’re happy to see nods to some grassroots campaigns and some great charity initiatives, but we need a properly funded national plan.
It’s promising to see the government recognise the success of campaigns like the Andy’s Man Club support groups and their #ItsOkToTalk social media campaign, as well as the need to overcome barriers to seeking help by reaching men in a non-clinical space e.g through sporting initiatives (big shout out out to Opening Up Cricket). The report mentions that we need to “build on the good work already taking place around the country to address these issues”, but there’s no mention of how that work will take place. We need a properly funded, well researched national plan with the right resources to bring the male suicide rate down.
Seeing the Prime Minister set out an agenda to tackle mental health at the beginning of the year is heartening, especially with such a big focus on men. It’s also very promising to see a focus on encouraging good mental well-being in schools and workplaces and recognition of the need to support the bereaved. The government must now translate these plans into action, and make sure the funding actually goes where it’s meant to. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating.
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